I’m not the type of girl who ever shopped at Goodwill in high school, even though used $2 shirts were all the rage when I was in Grade 10. I never bought a thing from a garage sale or even borrowed clothes from friends. That’s why I’m completely shocked to have become a garbage picker.
It all began one spring day when I was driving my kids through an upscale neighbourhood on our usual route to preschool. As I was driving, I saw a perfectly good painting easel perched on the curb. “The kids would love that!” I thought. But no – I can’t take someone else’s used toy from a curb.
What if it isn’t even garbage? What if the kids were just drawing by the curb and forgot to bring their beloved easel back into their play room? I kept on going right past the easel and on with my life.
I’d completely forgotten about the easel, a Little Tikes model, until I was driving home two hours later and it was still there. I made a split second decision. I scanned the neighbourhood looking for witnesses. Then I pulled into the driveway, opened my trunk and desperately tried to stash the easel into it. I slammed the trunk door shut with all my strength, jumped into my car with the speed of a tiger, and drove off.
“Ahhh! Thank you Mama!” my two-year-old son, Ari, screamed when he laid eyes on his new easel. “It’s my favourite!” Then he began to scribble – I mean, draw spiders and pictures of me on the paper I’d clipped to the easel. I got this warm and fuzzy feeling inside. I’d gotten something for nothing and now my kids can pursue their creative talents because of my ingenuity. Maybe they will grow up to be artists or architects because of this very easel that I’d taken from a curb.
The easel turned out to be such a good find that I almost didn’t hesitate to grab a swing sitting on a curb a few weeks later. We hung it from a tree in our backyard, and it’s have become a garbage picker. provided Josh, my one-year-old, with minutes and minutes of fun. I push him back and forth and we smile at each other. The breeze tickles his feet and rustles his golden hair. I playfully grab his feet, and tummy, and ears as he swings toward me to teach him his body parts. Maybe he’ll become a kinesiologist or doctor with all the knowledge he’s gaining from his new swing.
The swing was such a good find, that I hesitated even less a few weeks later when I saw a basketball net by the side of a curb in another neighbourhood. By now it was summer and I was about to discover that garbage picking big items in hot weather is a little riskier. As I struggled and sweated to lift the weighted basketball net into my trunk, I grew nervous. What if these poor kids get home and their hopes of playing hoops on the curb are dashed? I fretted as I frantically took the net apart so I could get the whole thing into my car, piece by gigantic piece. What if they are watching from the window and laughing at how sweaty I am? Even more mortifying was the thought that someone might stop and offer to help me load the net into my car. But I couldn’t give up now. The net was too darn heavy to remove from my car now that I’d gotten it in. I had no chance but to shut the trunk and drive off … again.
When I got home, the sweat on my brow had dried and the guilt of garbage picking for the third time had dissipated. I set the net up on my porch and waited to show Ari and Josh their latest toy.
“Ahhh! Thank you, Mama! I love it!” Ari shouted. Josh clapped his hands and chased after the little basketball that Ari told him he could play with. For the next few minutes I watched Ari shoot the ball into the net. Surely they will learn good sportsmanship from this net. Maybe they’ll even grow up to be basketball players, I mused.
Or, at the very least, they will have no apprehension about buying shirts from Goodwill when they get to Grade 10. Can you relate to Erin’s story?
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Originally published in ParentsCanada, April 2012